Sister Shirley Sexton, SNJM
Sister Shirley Sexton (Sister Maureen Theresa), an educator and former pastoral associate of Oakland's Sacred Heart Parish in Oakland, died May 16 in Saratoga, after a brief illness. She was 84 and celebrating her 60th year of profession as a Sister of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.
Born in Oakland, Sister Shirley went to Rockridge Elementary School for six years and St. Augustine for two. Afterward, she attended Holy Names High School, and the College of Holy Names, now Holy Names University, both in Oakland, graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in education and physical education. She graduated from San Francisco State University with her master's degree. She entered the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary in 1953.
Sister Shirley will be remembered by many as an elementary school teacher in schools in San Francisco, Santa Monica, Venice, Monterey Park, Altadena and Alhambra. Some may remember her as a school principal at St. Augustine School in Oakland for a year or at a school in Los Gatos for seven years; she was director of residents for four years at Holy Names University.
Sister Shirley attended a program for religious leaders at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana from 1982 to 1983 — prepping herself to be vocations director. According to Sister Mary Haupt, SNJM, who pens many of the obituaries for her religious community, while at Notre Dame Sister Shirley "became a loyal and faithful member of the 'Fighting Irish.'"
But for those who had the opportunity to know her along life's way, she was "Sister Shirley," a friend, a mentor, a counselor, a lector, a retreat master and a go-to person always ready with a big smile or a hug. Sister Haupt said that Sister Shirley's "vibrancy and kindness" attracted many people to her. She brought those gifts with her when she began to minister to the seniors at Sacred Heart Parish, Saint Mary Center, Strawberry Creek Lodge, the North Oakland Senior Center and Oakland Adult School.
Peggy Presley, who frequently walked with Sister Shirley at the annual Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco, recalled how the Holy Names Sister would take flower bouquets to share when she went to a senior activity. "They really loved her. She made them feel special."
Sister Shirley also bonded with younger members of the parish community, said Donovan White. She "watched me grow up," he said, adding that the Holy Names Sister liked to get progress reports from former students of the parish school like himself. "Sister Shirley loved young people, she was always that connected to us."
"It's impossible to think or speak about Sacred Heart Parish for any length of time without Sister Shirley coming to mind," said Ron Arth, who worked with her on a variety of parish committees. "Her ability to remember so many parishioners over the years always amazed me," he added. "You could tell when she spoke about them that they mattered to her — that she cared about them and loved them."
"My own life has been very full and rewarding, whether it be in teaching, residence hall work or in parish ministry," Sister Shirley wrote in a reflection for The Catholic Voice on the occasion of her 50th anniversary in religious life. "In all of these areas, it has always been the people whom I am serving, who are the witnesses in faith. I consider it a privilege to have ministered to, and worked with, so many God-loving people."
Sister Shirley is survived by her sister, Mary Hutton, and her nieces and nephews and their children.
The funeral Mass was held May 27 at Saint Mary's Church in Los Gatos and the burial took place the following day at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Hayward. A Mass was also held on May 30 at Sacred Heart Church in Oakland.
— Carrie McClish
Sister Lucian Marie Dusseau, OP
Sister Lucian Marie Dusseau, OP, was remembered recently at a memorial Mass for her at St. Lawrence O'Toole-St. Cyril of Jerusalem Church in Oakland. Her formal obituary mentioned her "eight years of pastoral service in Oakland," but it was the participants at her memorial who fully recounted her impact on the parish and the parishioners for those eight years.
In 1987 she was the pastoral associate during Msgr. Michael Lucid's term. To the consternation of a few, she became the first female lector at St. Lawrence O'Toole. When Rev. Robert Charm was assigned pastor in 1987, she became the assistant pastor. As such, she was in charge of the Baby Baptism program, ministry to the sick and dying and was also responsible for the management of the rectory.
Over the next few years, she was responsible for the recruitment and training of lectors, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and presiders for the Eucharistic liturgy in the absence of a priest on weekdays.
Not one to rest in the shade, she fully participated in parish staff meetings, the Steering Committee, Liturgy Committee, Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program, Rite of Christian Initiation of Children program, planning an celebration of wakes and funerals and the 75th Anniversary Renovation Committee.
She was most fondly remembered for her constant smile and laughter, her openness to spend time with those who needed someone to talk to and with and her encouragement to others to believe in angels. She was indeed a blessing to all who knew her and an exceptional Christian role model.
— Rev. Robert Charm
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